(Above: Student residents pose for a group portrait on the terrace of Court 17, UW Tacoma's first residence hall. Photo by Cody Char.)
- Planning for Campus Housing: the conversion of Court 17 to an on-campus residence hall was approached through careful planning and analysis.
- "Not just a commuter campus anymore: UW Tacoma opens first student-only dorm," The News Tribune, September 23, 2016
- Event: Court 17 Ribbon Cutting, October 6, 2016, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.
From the outside, Court 17 doesn’t look any different. Inside, a new front desk and the occasional “under construction” sign hint at something larger. Change is coming, not only to the building, but also to the University of Washington Tacoma.
This past summer the University purchased Court 17 from real estate developer Lorig Associates. Lorig built the apartments in 2006 in a public-private partnership with the University. The decision by UW Tacoma to purchase Court 17 (read the details here) is a result of growth and increasing demand for on-campus housing.
Until recently, Court 17 was home to both students and private-market renters who wanted to live downtown. Going forward the building will function exclusively as a residence hall for UW Tacoma students.
The transition of Court 17 into a full-fledged residence hall is a milestone for a university with a reputation for being a commuter campus. “We have this group of incoming first-year students that are looking for a college experience that doesn’t include living at home and driving or taking a bus to campus,” said Associate Director of Student Engagement Surtida Shelton.
When full, Court 17 will be home to almost 300 undergraduate and graduate students. The addition of a residential population on campus has opened up new possibilities. "It's a first step, we're going to have more students living on campus 24/7," said Dean of Student Engagement Ed Mirecki. "There's going to be students here in evenings, and on the weekends, which will impact programs and services across campus."
The purchase of Court 17 by UW Tacoma is part of a larger effort to boost student engagement on campus through involvement with clubs, events, and activities. Getting students involved can be critical to their success. “Research shows the more connected you feel to the campus—the more involved you are—the more likely you are to stay and graduate,” said Shelton.
Building that community, at least for Court 17 residents, is partly the responsibility of resident advisors (RAs). Seven RAs live in the residence hall. They’re all juniors or seniors at UW Tacoma. Their job involves just about everything from letting in a locked out resident to helping students get connected to resources.
Chris Suh is one of the Court 17 RAs. The junior in sustainable urban development hopes his experience will be of use to other students. “I just remember when I was 18 and I first moved out of my parent’s house,” said Suh. “I had all of this freedom but no direction.”
Fellow RA Maggie Gonzalez believes Court 17 offers a unique opportunity to students. “You come here and it’s not like you’re going to be isolated,” said Gonzalez. “You already have at least one built-in friend with your roommate and we’re always hosting events to get people connected to one another.”
This sentiment is echoed by Mirecki. "This is no longer an apartment building, it's a residence hall that comes with a residence life program," he said. "It's one thing to talk about the Teaching & Learning Center, but to have a resident advisor who can say 'well, let’s walk down there, let me introduce you to some of the tutors and get you connected to those resources'. That goes a long way to retention, to supporting academic success."
One way to foster a sense of place is by giving students more destinations on campus. The University YMCA helped with this, as will Court 17. The next phase in this project is a planned café that will go inside the residence hall but will be open to everyone. Work is expected to be completed before the end of 2016.
The evolution of Court 17 from apartments to residence hall marks a turning point for UW Tacoma. The soul of the place remains the same (urban-serving, diverse) but there’s something about being an actual home. Shelton summed it up nicely when she said,” it’s about creating an experience that allows students to feel more connected to the institution.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org